The box.

This is a “sweatbox”. It and other such “boxes” were used to punish prisoners, primarily those assigned to chain gangs, and primarily in the southern United States. When confined in such a tight space in hot conditions, a prisoner will rapidly experience dehydration; this was not a side-effect, but the very purpose of such confinement. Similar devices were specifically intended for the purpose of torture, as discussed in this article about Vietnamese POW camps.

This image comes from a timeline posted on the website of the Florida Department of Corrections; the accompanying text reads:

The infamous sweat box is a small enclosure, so small a single man barely had enough room to sit. A man could stand up and would often stay in the box for two days with two or three other men.

The use of the sweatbox was ruled inhumane decades ago, but its illicit use continues. This article discusses the use of such a sweatbox in 1998 to punish a judicial critic in Alabama.

According to CNN, the US military has released images of what it calls “segregation boxes” used to confine Iraqi prisoners. The Raw Story has video showing all three released images. The boxes measure as little as three feet by six feet, making lying down impossible and sitting difficult. It is hard not to see these pictures and not immediately think of sweatboxes and the abusive chain-gang system with which they were associated.

US military spokespeople avoid the issue of whether the use of such boxes constitutes torture; the spokesman quoted in the Raw Story article merely assures us that prisoners receive food, water, and access to toilets. Then again, the same was largely true of chain-gang prisoners, and few would dispute that the device then constituted torture. A spokesperson for Human Rights Watch is quoted as expressing concern over prisoners held in such devices under conditions of extreme heat, but, once again, we are reminded that that was their historical purpose.

Do I even have to mention that, in the US south as in Iraq, the people who spent most of the time in such devices were a shade darker than the people who locked them inside?

It is remarkable that such devices could be used without anyone in a position of authority being outraged over the historical parallels. This is what happens when the people in charge are utterly lacking in morals; they know the history of these devices, but they just don’t care.


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